poolblood has this curious ability to sum up complex emotions with just a few words, and a handful of notes. The Canadian songwriter – real name Maryam Said – sketched out her identity across a couple of excellent EPs, fusing indie pop with DIY aesthetics, while pilfering from a variety of different genres.
Sitting in her own world, pool blood’s eagerly-awaited debut album ‘mole’ is out now and it’s a softly beguiling song cycle. A unique piece of work, her tongue-in-cheek lyricism touches on references from classic 90s flick My Own Private Idaho, all while constructing a lens to analyse her own romantic ups and downs.
Self-effacing and quietly entrancing, ‘mole’ is out now. Constructed alongside co-producer Louie Short and close friend Shamir, it’s a sort of conceptual piece about a sentient facial mole, while peering much deeper into the soul than a mere skin deep description.
Clash got on a Zoom call with poolblood to unpick the complex tangles around her curious debut LP.
Congratulations on the new album, which is very special indeed!
Thank you so much! It’s been really exciting to see how receptive everyone has been about it. And it’s been really fun to watch everyone’s reaction.
It’s a very personal record – did you anticipate from the outset just how honest you were going to be?
I’ve always ran from a personal space. I think for this record, I knew I wanted it to be very close to home, writing from a place that felt very natural. A place where I knew I wanted a connection.
Some of the lyrics touch on becoming a parent to yourself.
I think re-parenting came into the cultural zeitgeist over the past two years or so. People talk about therapy, and what they’ve learned. When you’re younger, time is almost a scarcity. You put pressure on yourself. But as you grow, you realise the choices you make all lead to different paths. Time does function as a healer. And it’s all we have to look forward to, anyway, if we’re going to be philosophical about it!
Has your relationship with art and songwriting shifted over the past couple of years?
With this LP I wanted to challenge myself and my songwriting. I wanted to change genres as well, or even not had a genre at all! We have access to so much music through streaming, so you don’t have to stay in one area all the time. I’ve definitely grown. I’ve grown with trends, but also purely through where I am in my life. Trying to figure out what music speaks to me, and what art I can connect with. I just continuously grow in that manner.
Are you continually creative? Or do you need a specific block of time to focus on a project?
I tend to chip away. I’ve tried to allot a certain time of the day to being creative, but that becomes a little too mechanical for me, in a way that doesn’t feel natural. So when I have the inclination – or a day off – I’ll own that inclination. I’ll sit down, write what I can, and chip away at it all. I work slowly, and take it as it goes.
You cite Fiona Apple’s ‘When The Pawn…’ as a big influence, do you remember listening to it for the first time?
Well I heard it for the first time in 2017 and I was just blown away. I think she’s a brilliant songwriter. She captures emotion in such a great way, and you can really feel the fact that she’s feeling these emotions to a tee. She also doesn’t shy away from being upset or coming off as angry in her emotions, which is actually really elegant and tasteful, I think. That record blew me away, and I channelled a lot of that in this record. I used it as a compass.
And you’re also a fan of My Own Private Idaho. Do you often draw inspiration from visual arts in your songwriting practise?
I do, I definitely do. I think film – and even TV – was something that inspired me as a kid. I was in musical theatre in high school! It occupies space in my mind. I love making songs for characters – in a way ‘Mole’ itself is a character, that I detach myself from. Again, that’s almost like re-parenting. With My Own Private Idaho, it’s just so moving… and I saw a lot of parallels in my own life. This beautiful queer friendship that gets very complicated. I still take inspiration from my personal life – as many songwriters do – but I try to go outside of that realm as well.
Louie Short and Shamir assist on production, what makes them so apt to work on this material?
The songs were done. They were all written down. I guess I had the skeletons, and we discussed the production ideas we’d aim for. Working with Louie was really great, he had a great ear for where things should be placed. He did a phenomenal job on arranging the entire record, and making it cohesive. They’re both my favourite songwriters right now, so for them to play a role on my own stuff… I’m just so grateful. Shamir is basically my friend at this point, and we recorded a couple of bits at his home studio, which felt just like making music with friends. Drinking Coke Zero and chilling!
You and Shamir share that similar genre-less mindset, his work is very free.
I think that’s why we connected in the beginning. We have so many similar artists that we both love, but they’re all from different genres. It’ll span from artists in the 40s all the way up to now. From dream pop to trip-hop! And that helps me feel very comfortable with the idea of not having to be boxed in. This idea that the record didn’t actually have one big sound.
There’s a lot of ideas here, was there a moment where the record coalesced?
I think one of the last songs I wrote for this record was ‘Voyager’. And it was one of the first songs we recorded, actually. When I finished it, I felt like I had said what I needed to say, and there wasn’t much else that I needed to say. The process spanned a year and a bit, so I wanted to preserve this sense of being attached to a space and time in my life. It all made sense to me. It was a specific person who lived through it all. I was really proud, I guess, and happy with how I had challenged myself.
Did you achieve that sense of catharsis at the end of the album sessions?
It did, for sure. There was a moment at the end of recording the album where I felt it was perhaps too raw… but I think there’s a catharsis in that, as well. I didn’t allow myself to sanitise the writing. When we wrapped up production, I felt very relieved because I had said what I needed to say.
‘mole’ is out now.
Words: Robin Murray
Main Photo: Laura Lynn Petrick
Inset: Jibril Yassion